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Show(er) and Tell: How Gabrielle Made Hair Care A Meditative Practice

BY Gabrielle Smith
Show(er) and Tell is a series based off of the idea that we have some of our best thoughts (you know where this is going…) in the shower. So we’re getting staff + contributors alike to tell us about the things that cross their mind in the shower and we’re sharing the best ones with you. Have something you want to show(er) and tell us? Yours could be next.
Before giving this a read, press play for ~meditative~ vibes

Nowadays, it’s hard for all of us to escape the constant everything that surrounds us. Whether it’s the plague of too many thoughts, responsibilities, or folks pulling you in a million directions, we’re always pressured to be on. With social media, friends, family and lovers constantly vying for our attention… how do we calm down?

My psychiatrist tells me to do yoga or start working out. My psychologist tells me to journal. My friends say that I should just have a drink. But you know what really gets my mind to steady water? 

Doing my hair.

It sounds cheeky and vain, but for some reason, focusing on my multi-step hair care routine is something that chills me out.

I’m a Black woman with a mixture of 4b-4c hair, so taking care of my hair is an entire job on it’s own. As time goes on, wash night becomes wash day. Even though it’s time consuming, I’ve begun to appreciate it. It’s become a meditative practice of movement.

I always start my routine in the beginning of the day by hopping in the shower. I wash with a sulfate-free shampoo, getting the residue of the week out. Then, when I condition, I finger detangle to loosen up the knots in my hair. This is the fun and the hard part. I have thick hair with a tight curl pattern. Pulling my finger through each section of my hair is repetitive. This brings me to a trancelike state. It helps me reflect on the week: what did I do right? What did I do wrong? Whatever it is, I’m letting it go down the drain, bringing myself to a restorative state.

Post-shower, I deep condition for thirty minutes. In this time, I usually clean up and set up my little station for the next step of hair prep: the application of product. After my deep conditioner is rinsed out, I sit in front of a full-body mirror in my bedroom or living room, and divide my hair into sections. I become a mass of hair ties and banana clips. With a towel on my lap, I begin to apply curling creams, leave-in conditioners and gel. Sometimes the moisture in my hair causes the product to slick and slap to the floor, but that’s okay. Sometimes beauty starts with a mess. We can clean it up later.

Taking this much time on my hair— with all the washing, detangling and product— is like a reset for the week. If the shower time was to cleanse myself of the week, then this styling time is how I set the next week up for success. I try to take care when applying product, making sure to address each and every strand. There’s no science to it, though. I stop when it feels right.

My hair care routine used to be far less time consuming. I’d just co-wash and put in a leave-in conditioner. I’d let it partially air dry and then I’d blow dry the rest. However, this left me with lackluster hair and less definition than I wanted. In finding the right hair care products, I feel like I’m a lot closer to the type of natural I want to be.

Growing up I was told that looks were so important. My mom worked in a forward-facing industry, where pretty was power, and she pushed that upon me. Now, I struggle to walk around at home in a bonnet or headscarf. If I’m sleeping with a lover, I wait to wrap my hair until the very last moment at night. 

I’m learning, through these hair care practices, ways to mitigate that feeling. I’m learning to accept sweatpants and de-center care for my hair as simply an appearance-based thing. I’m learning how to take care of myself, and that means maintaining the health of my crown.

When I look in the mirror after doing my hair for two or three hours, sometimes it feels like the day has passed by me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing— when you’re someone plagued with constant ruminations and thoughts of worry, putting your mind away is just what the doctor ordered. Then, I’m ready to conquer the week.